I like to think,
Maybe not about the right stuff,
But when pondering what life means,
I rarely think of algebra, STEM, group projects or
Much of anything about my high school experience.

Seems weird for me to write that
Since I have a terminal degree in education.
Come to think of it,
Maybe there’s a problem with degrees in education
I mean, with paper comes ego, right?

So, my fellow teachers of the world,
We have a place in society,
We have a job to do,
Our job is not to be an asshole to kids
Or to use our certificates to bully them.

Our job is to communicate clearly,
To provide the resources to students
So the THEY can learn what is important to THEM.
It’s not about you coercing them to do your contrived work.
That’s a pedestal pedagogy and we should be better than that.

I’m lucky and cursed to live where I teach,
Lucky because I know the deal,
No early due date shenanigans with me,
I’m pretty sure June 5 means June 5,
Not May 22 or 28.

I’m cursed because I live where I teach,
So now I know how and who you are
And when I sit in meetings listening to you pontificate
I will have to try and hold back,
To not seem annoyed at how you have treated my family.

It’s unfortunate,
Because your class is important,
Well, maybe not, maybe you just think it is, each student decides
For himself or herself, but it could be so much more,
I only wish you remembered what it was like to be a kid.

Oh wait, there was no Covid, then,
It’s doubtful you had to do distance learning,
Maybe you missed an assignment and got reamed by a teacher
Or jacked up with a more difficult make-up assignment
Just because the teacher could inflict that upon you.

I bet you resented that class, swore you would never do that when you taught,
Yet here it is, in a time when educators should be more compassionate,
And I’m on the fence about how to confront your kind hearted approach.
Maybe I’ll use the system, make you grade that shit, then opt out, just because.
Just because I know that would piss you off.

Hopefully, our boss would ask why,
And that’s when we’d speak first doctor to doctor,
And then I’d go taxpayer-parent to principal,
Then you two can figure out what should have happened.
Teacher, stop making it worse. Your paper is unimportant.

***Note: Remember this is just a poem… Not sure who is speaking… “lol”

It was like I had never been in a classroom before. They looked at me like I was some kind of freak speaking a language they had never heard. In less than two weeks, either I had forgotten how to teach or they had no clue what I had taught them over the last four months. This was no dream. This was first period after the holiday recess. I scrambled for the right things to say recognizing that time has a way of bringing things back. Somewhere in a story about my high school teacher, they came back to life.

Seen in their natural habitats, animals exhibit their truest behaviors. They forget the responsibility for insuring the success of the herd and look only to protect themselves. Think of the teacher with closets full of supplies while the rest turn to funding sites to beg in a socially acceptable way for markers, erasers, paper, or scissors. Think of the teachers who see the classroom as their personal domain, as if it is an extension of their homes, so much so that they are put out when a transient is assigned to their classroom for a period or two.

Maybe it would be good if some kind of animal whisperer came into contact with these egocentrically inclined professionals. The trainer could show them the good of building strong relationships with other members of the pack. Their enlightened ways might help them share some of their resources or maybe even knock stressfulness down a level or two. Of course, the truest habits of an animal comes out in the most natural environments.

Old dogs, new tricks?

“The elephants are dancing on the graves of squeeling mice.” Cream, Anyone for Tennis

We longed for the day
When graduation would be there,
High school would be over, and
College would set us on our adult ways.
We were told the past four years
Were the perfect preparation for the next four or five.
We never bought that message
Seeing the homework as unnecessary,
Wondering why we couldn’t leave for lunch, and
Moaning about all the dumb stuff we couldn’t understand.

Secretly we vowed to never be like that.

Then we got our jobs,
Falling into the trap of efficiency and control
Set by the changing tides of evaluation and continuous improvement.
We started giving homework,
The same kind of assignments that we dreaded.
We continued reading the books that we did,
As if they are the only ones that have anything important to say.
They were classics ordained by people from another time,
An era we railed against as students.
Then, we became the robots we vowed to never be.

Now we pass the blame onto the kids.

I wonder how I became the brick and mortar I so dislike.
Those with authority tell me to make a change.
In the same breath, they say they can’t make change at their level,
So what am I to do?
I’ve latched onto every initiative they have thrown out there,
Nearly a quarter century of graphic organizers, objectives, and technology.
It’s all just a filter, as the information to be delivered
Rarely ever changes,
At least in principle for the foreseeable future.

Many years ago
I made a move to teach
At a high school.
After elementary school and middle school,
I figured I had seen just about everything.

I hadn’t.

Besides the normal school stuff,
I got to learn a whole new faculty.
One man was a longtime teacher
Who was nearing retirement.
I only knew him in passing, but he was always around.

He ran the hallways during his planning.
His choppy steps were quiet
And he always listened to something
Loud enough on his headphones
To bypass his downgraded hearing ability.

After he retired,
He stuck around.
Using his guile and experience
From teaching the hardest of students
To manage the toughest of all teaching jobs, the substitute.

And he ran.

After a quick Clark Kent change,
He was out of his bow tie
Making his way around the building
With a pace perfect
For memorizing his lines in the script he carried.

I never knew he was an actor,
But he was great,
Never letting on that he had cancer,
Never suggesting that he could not beat it.
His anger seemed manageable as he reasoned with his struggle.

Yet, he remained upbeat
Running as much as possible,
Reading during quiet moments between classes,
Standing through the rigors of standardized testing,
Acting as if he was on the mend.

We last spoke about two weeks ago.
He did some quiet judging of education,
How we are missing the importance of what we are
By focusing so much time on testing
For he had been a man of relationships, no matter how difficult the student.

Word came today that Kirk passed away.
Cancer took a good man away from us all too soon.
He lived with a dignity and honesty
Few will ever approach.
So long, Mr. Fetters…

I don’t know what is the most important lesson a coach can share, but I know Coach Farrior said something that inspired me off the basketball court. I wrote an essay in his History class. I have no idea what it was about, but he took me aside and talked up my writing. I may or may not be any good at getting my thoughts on this electronic paper, but I know that the encouragement Coach Farrior gave me helped inspire me to write more at a time where I could have just as easily not written. Thanks, Coach Farrior.

The radar is a difficult place to be on. When a boss sets the authoritative sights on a pleb, there is not much that can be done to escape the inevitable destruction. Jack walked towards The Commanders office with a sinking feeling that he had done something wrong. In all of his years, Jack had never been summoned to the principal’s office for anything good. In fact, in all of his years of being in school he remembered nothing but negativity associated with any principal’s office. He trudged through the maze of the open concept school thinking what he might like for his last supper.

“Maybe I’ll have a cocktail or smoothie made from arugula,” he thought. “I hope they use a flat paddle and not a round piece of bamboo for my flogging.” Negative thoughts were swirling as he stepped into the office suite.

Sitting at her desk was the matronly secretary to the principal, Mrs. Bell. She had been at her post through the tenure’s of four principals and there was a ritual to gaining access to the boss. She saw the door to her superior’s office as a gate to be protected at all costs and each visitor was corralled in a row of vintage office chairs that deigned to mimic mid-century modern furniture. She ran her homestead with absolute authority and any violation of the routine was cause for a time out and restriction of prompt access to the real boss.

“Hello, Mrs. Bell,” said Jack.

She continued checking boxes on some form and never looked up. Jack noticed sprouts of gray sneaking into her mysteriously black hair. Just as he was about to forgo appropriate convention and ask this very old women if her hair was “starting” to gray, Mrs. Bell pointed to the empty chairs and said, “He’ll be with you in a moment.”

After about ten minutes the door clicked and opened. The Commander had installed an electronic door opener so he could let people in without greeting them at the door. The Commander was a master at schmoozing his bosses and parents, but he was even better at keeping a distance between those he should have been serving, the teachers and students. Jack expected The Commander to be sitting behind his average desk with the props of man who had risen to the mean of his profession hanging on the wall behind him. Instead, he was greeted by The Commandress.

“Jack, welcome. We were just talking about you,” she said with all of the transparency of a woman running for President of the United States.

“Well, I hope some of it was good. Should I have representation with me?”

The Commander and Commandress looked at each other and laughed like they were actors in a sit-com.

“Of course not, we would have advised you as to the need for such had we thought it necessary,” said The Commander.

“No, Jack,” started The Commandress, “We were impressed by your message to the students. You understand exactly what we are hoping to achieve with PIOUS and we have a proposition for you.”

The years of battle for Jack had taught him to be wary of good things coming from above. He was more surprised to be offered something that sounded positive by these two than he would have been if either of them had come out as a transvestite. As a student of The Godfather, Jack knew that favors and proposals come with traps and he knew that if he did not listen to their offer he would be on the wrong radar. Jack was ready to be off that screen.

“Let’s hear it.”

“First, Jack, we were talking and both noticed that you never use names with us. Perhaps the time has come to remove the formalities from our relationship. I would be happy if you called me by my first name, Betty.”

“Boop,” thought Jack. “Alright, Betty it is.”

The Commander followed her lead with the drool coming from his mouth like a dog waiting for a treat. He added to the conversation, “We have had an unfortunate history, but I have always respected your abilities as a teacher…”

“Bull,” thought Jack.

“…I’d like it if we could start over, so please feel free to call me by my first name as well.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I know it,” said Jack as he ran through the Rolodex of nicknames the faculty had for The Commander.

“It’s Allen.” The Commander looked over to Betty and said, “What a great sense of humor he has.” She gave him a courtesy laugh.

Betty said, “Jack, we would like you to come to my house out on the Chickahominy River this weekend. The administration and board are having a retreat to discuss major changes to the district’s five-year plan. We think that you would have a great deal to offer the discussion. Will you come?”

Bam! Betty sprung a trap that left Jack no place in the district to hide. He could go rogue and say, “No,” but that would leave him in a pool of muck no matter where the rest of his career would take him.

“I’d be honored,” he said.

Betty gave him the address and the each exchanged pleasant good-byes. As Jack left the office thoughts of doom were churning in his head. He felt like a beetle just before the “Tims” come down a smashing. He went up the ramp and back to the PE office where the other teachers were eating lunch.

“What’s wrong with you? You look like you got punched in the solar plexus,” said Oliver.

“I just got a butt flossing with alpaca fibers,” said Jack.

“What do you mean?” asked Oliver.

“It’s too much for me to explain right now. I’m not sure what is happening, but I’ve been invited into the sanctum. I’ll be a river rat this weekend.”

“Oh, no. That’s not good for you my friend.”